PBA’s expert on implicit bias
Glen Ridge Local 58’s Uliano tapped to develop
statewide training program for law enforcement
Law Enforcement officers might question why implicit bias and cultural training is necessary. The bill signed into law by Governor Murphy makes the program mandatory and law enforcement officers must take the training every five years starting in March 2021.
“I don’t believe there is any other profession out there interacting with these
diverse populations more than police officers,” says Joseph Uliano, president of the Glen Ridge Local 58, and a municipal police officer for close to two decades. “It’s why this training is critical for both our recruits in the police academies and our veteran officers.”
Uliano, who has a doctorate in education and has served as a department
field-training officer and a Police Training Commission (PTC) certified police instructor, understands that implicit biases can be found everywhere.
“We often hear people saying they are not racists or are nonjudgmental of others,” he says. “On the surface, this often proves to be true. When we take a deeper look at ourselves, we may realize that our unconscious thoughts may, in fact, elicit a judgmental attitude toward others.”
The NJSPBA has tapped Dr. Uliano to help create the training program. Outside the job, he is a private educational consultant and has been a sought-after guest lecturer at several New Jersey colleges and universities, speaking on criminal justice and research methods.
Uliano is also part of the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety’s
panel that is developing training course materials and an online tutorial. He will be the one member of the panel who can offer the perspective that truly represents law enforcement.
“My role is to offer my professional insight from a frontline police officer’s perspective, representing the members of the NJSPBA,” he explains. “As a veteran police officer, I was grateful to hear that the Attorney General’s Office asked the PBA to send a representative to work side-by-side with their panel of experts in a collaborated effort before rolling the training out.”
Glen Ridge Local 58 President Joe Uliano will be
representing the NJSPBA to develop state-mandated
implicit bias and cultural training for law enforcement officers.
Uliano emerged as the perfect choice to represent the PBA in this initiative. His expertise is another example of the wide array of knowledge that members have in so many areas that can help improve law enforcement.
“Joe is a very bright guy who has advanced degrees, and this kind of fits into
his model of research,” noted PBA President Pat Colligan. “It’s awesome to go to somebody with those credentials. Here’s a guy who sits in a patrol car and humps calls like most officers do. Quite frankly, that’s not the experience of the bulk of that committee. Joe brings frontline experience.”
Bias training is not new. All New Jersey agencies have received some form of
implicit bias training. This new curriculum will be designed by a wide array of experts, including prosecutors, law enforcement executives, frontline officers, educators, social services, and members of different religious communities.
Uliano will bring research to efforts that will work to define diversity and
achieve the common goal of equality for those who serve in the criminal justice system. In addition to his frontline experience, he brings a unique perspective developed from teaching and lecturing
on this topic.
“Researchers have found our perceptions of others are not innate but rather
learned behavior,” Uliano explains. “These biases stem from the observations and stereotypes we have cognitively and unconsciously stored away into our deepest thoughts, making them so covert that we often don’t even know we possess them.”
He will be called on to begin reporting on the initiative at state PBA meetings. Members should be ready for doses of cutting-edge information that will make a profound impact on how they view implicit bias.
“Research has also found that our implicit biases toward others increase
during stressful interactions,” Uliano continues. “These thoughts are not deliberate, lacking premeditation to hurt others, but instead, are detrimental, which is why this is important for law enforcement officers, who often face stressful encounters, to be trained to recognize and adjust accordingly.”
The training will go beyond race. It will also address age, gender, special
needs, religion, cultural diversity, and sexual orientation. In terms of deploying the training, Uliano believes awareness of unconscious thoughts will shed light on the fact that officers who believe they see everyone the same will realize this is not necessarily true.
“This is acceptable because, as research indicates, we all have implicit biases,” he confirms. “What’s not acceptable is ignoring what we uncover from our unconscious thoughts and disregarding that we can all do better. This is not exclusive to police officers; it applies to all walks of life.”
Uliano believes the training will enhance law enforcement work and allow officers to better serve their communities. He’s grateful to Colligan for appointing him to represent PBA members. The state president confirmed there is not a better member for the job. “We wanted somebody who understands our perspective and can get it done,” Colligan praises. “Joe will get it done and bring it back to our members so they can get it done.”